Robotic Welding Applications
Robotic welding involves using industrial robots for both performing a weld and handling the workpiece in order to completely automate a welding process. Robotic welding first began to gain traction in the 1980s with the automotive industry. Today it is estimated around 50% of all active articulated robots are used for welding automation.
Arc welding and spot welding are the two most common robotic welding applications, but there are others that can be successfully automated with industrial robots. The following is a list of robotic welding applications.
- • Arc Welding - Arc welding involves the use of electricity to permanently join metals together. The electric arc, which is the signature characteristic of the application, heats and melts metals. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic and Yaskawa Motoman are both popular arc welding robots. Within the arc welding category are several subtypes which include:
- • MIG - Metal inert gas welding is one of the most common arc welding applications. MIG welding robots are ideal for working with thick metals as filler wire is used to join workpieces together.
- • TIG - Tungsten inert gas welding is popular for workpieces with great detail as it is known for its precision. Robotic TIG welding is limited to thin metals only. This method uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode for welding.
- • MAG - Metal active gas welding is similar to MIG with the main difference being the use of active shielding gas. Like MIG, this method also uses a consumable wire electrode. MAG welding robots, like the FANUC Arcmate 100ic, are used for welding thick ferrous metals.
- • FCAW - Flux core arc welding uses a tubular wire electrode which contains flux in its center to protect the weld pool, avoiding shielding gas. FCAW robots are advantageous since they can weld dirty or painted metals.
- • PAW - Plasma arc welding is a precision welding method, but unlike TIG it can be used for both thin and thick metals. During PAW inert gas is converted into plasma to heat and melt metals.
- • SAW - Submerged arc welding is the least common arc welding process for robotic automation. This is mainly because it is limited to thick plated or longer welds. Coarse powder called flux is melted creating slag which acts as a protectant for the weld pool.
- • Spot Welding - Robotic spot welding is a staple of the automotive industry. Resistance to an electrical current heats and melts workpieces at specific points. The FANUC R-2000ic is ideal for spot welding automation.
- • Laser Welding - Laser welding uses a laser beam for joining metals together. Unlike other welding applications, this one is a non-contact method. The ABB 4400 can weld workpieces up to a foot away with robotic laser welding.
- • Electron Beam Welding - EBW involves using a beam of high velocity electrons. The kinetic energy of the electrons generates heat upon impact with metals. The only caveat is this method requires a vacuum environment.
- • Ultrasonic Welding - Ultrasonic welding uses ultrasonic vibrations to melt and join workpieces. It is a precision method that is capable of incredibly fast cycle times. This method can weld metals as well as plastics.